Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Eagle-Tribune -- June 29, 2005

I wrote this that appeared in today's Eagle-Tribune newspaper:

There are ways to ease gridlock

I have been commuting to and from Boston and Cambridge for 18 years. I have been fortunate that most of those years have been outside of a typical 9-to-5 schedule because my 32-mile trip would easily take more than an hour using Interstates 495 and 93 (and that doesn't count the extra 15 to 30 minutes it takes for the 2.5 miles between my office and the highway).

Highway delays can be attributed to many factors, not the least of which are accidents and the sheer volume during peak periods. For example, many people may be surprised at how a modestly-sized hill can help to choke rush-hour traffic. While there isn't anything that can be done to flatten hills, drivers can help each other by maintaining constant speeds on the inclines. If everyone used cruise control and kept an even steady speed, you wouldn't see other people jamming on their brakes because someone ahead of them is losing speed while going uphill (and let's not forget the better gas mileage you get when you maintain steady speeds).

Drivers can also help each other by staying out of each other's way. If you want to go 40 mph on a major highway, do not stay in the left lanes. Just as excessive speed kills, so can excessive slowness. I can't begin to tell you how many accidents and near-misses I have seen when someone was going too slowly in the left lane, causing everyone else to suddenly swerve right to avoid hitting them. I am not saying that everyone needs to go fast, I am simply saying that we all need to respect each other and use a lane that suits our speeds.

Unfortunately, even if everyone were to cooperate with each other in a perfect world, there are still many more factors that are beyond our own control. Roads designed with lane drops tend to create bottlenecks — and if the lane drop occurs in conjunction with a hill, such as the Leverett Connector/Storrow Drive exit off of I-93 southbound in Boston, you're basically doomed to be delayed. You're also doomed at many of the major interchanges where there is a lack of accelerate/decelerate and merge lanes like there are in other parts of the country.

I've traveled to almost every major city in our country and have spent considerable amounts of time in many of them (often up to several months at a time in some cities). I've seen solutions used elsewhere that could help our traffic troubles here. I've seen the median strips between highway lanes used for express rail service (with only a limited number of stops along the way so they would be quicker than standard commuter rail service). I have also seen median strips used for reversible express/toll travel lanes (again with only a limited number of entrance/exit points), similar to the reversible lane known as "the zipper lane" between Boston and Braintree. Since the governments of Massachusetts and New Hampshire already own or control the median strips and the land between the lanes, perhaps they can look into using them for similar solutions. Yes, they would require money to be spent for construction, but they can pay for themselves over time. I know I would not mind dropping a buck into a basket if it is going to get me in or out of Boston more quickly.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

Orlando, 2005

Went to Orlando two weekends ago with some friends. It rained every day and it was hot as hell. I mean DISGUSTINGLY hot! REALLY nasty ugly weather! But I didn't let that spoil my fun riding the rides...

Went on Mission: Space at Epcot (where a four year old died earlier this week). That was AWESOME! They make you feel like you're really on a rocket blasting off into space. A VERY intense ride. I was a lil lightheaded when it was done and I was white as a ghost, but it was well worth the experience!

Over at Disney-MGM, the Aerosmith Rock 'n' Roller Coaster kept breaking down so we never got a chance to go on that on this trip, which really pissed me off because I love that ride and it's one of two things I look forward to at that park. But at least the Tower Of Terror was working perfectly.

Up at Universal and Islands Of Adventure, the sign outside of the Hulk rollercoaster said it was a 30 minute wait. More than an hour later while we were still waiting in line, they finally made an announcement that the ride was broken, so that turned out to be a huge waste of time. We tried a few unfamiliar attractions -- things with short wait-times because of all the time we wasted at the Hulk, and they turned out to be great fun. There was a Poseidon thing in which we walked thru a cool refreshing tunnel of spinning water and there were a lot of special effects, a Shrek 3D movie that has added effects like blowing wind and water droplets and hydraulic chairs to enhance the realism, and a new ride based on the Mummy movie that is kind of like a rollercoaster except that it stops and drops and goes backwards and twists and turns. Some of the old Universal standards like Twister are still cool -- they do a great job of making you feel like you're standing in front of a real live tornado, and the Back To The Future ride is still fun but it's starting to show its age a little. The Earthquake ride is still a great idea, but I think they need to update it a bit.

I went to two new Hooters which bring my total up to 68 now (you can read more about Hooters here). There were two more that I wanted to go to in the area but I couldn't use the rental car that three of us split (and the ones with the car were avoiding the other two of us all weekend, so the car became kind of a waste for me) and I spent way too much money on taxis just getting around the amusement parks.

I wasn't a fan of the Disney resort bus system because buses were almost always late and a few times we were given misinformation by bus drivers that resulted in us going places we did not want to go. There was one exceptional bus driver, however, who told me about a huge pool party at a hotel down the street from ours one day, although I didn't enjoy it as much I would have if I didn't have blisters from walking around in the rain all weekend, LOL!

I didn't take a lot of pics but I do have some and I will add them soon.